In late summer and early fall each year, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry plants millions of seeds in two state nurseries to produce tree and shrub seedlings for conservation planting within the state.
That’s when the seeds ripen and start to fall, said Bob Hawkins, nursery section supervisor at the Vallonia Nursery.
“For us to grow the seedlings, we try to gather as much seed locally as we can,” Hawkins said. “We are asking for everybody’s help to go out and collect the seed and bring it in to us.”
Much of the seed the nurseries use is supplied by collectors from all over the state. Anyone who wants to collect seeds may do so, but to get paid, collectors must first go through the proper channels.
“We need information, and it must be filed also with the state, and then it will be sent to the central office, and that person will become a vendor,” Hawkins said. “The seeds will be thoroughly tested, and then data will be entered into the computer to which seeds are good, and the vendor will then be paid for the good seed.”
DNR pays seed collectors on the basis of “pure live seed.” That term means the seeds must be from the required tree species and cannot be infected with disease or infested with insects.
“The testing procedure is entered into a computer for statistical analysis of the data to see how many good seeds were in the batch that was brought in,” Hawkins said. “Vendors are paid by the good seed, and the collection starting times on the website are not set in stone, but it’s a guideline as to when you can start to look for what you need in the certain species.”
The goal is to produce 2 to 3 million seedlings each year for conservation plantings. Because of natural factors, achieving that goal requires planting about 8.5 million seeds.
The other nursery, Jasper-Pulaski Nursery, is located about 5 miles from Medaryville in the northwestern part of the state.
The state Division of Forestry, which operates the nurseries, orchestrates statewide seed collection with the goal of diversifying the seed source. Such diversification allows the nursery to grow seedlings that will be well adapted to grow into mature trees throughout the state.
Some of the seeds being sought and the price per seed offered include black oak, black walnut, pin oak, red oak, shumard oak and white oak (2 cents per each qualifying seed) and bur oak, chinkapin oak, swamp chestnut oak and swamp white oak (3 cents per each qualifying seed).
A complete list of species needed, prices and dates needed is at dnr.in.gov/forestry/9799.htm.
Some pointers for collecting include:
Always call first to see if the seeds you plan to collect are still needed.
Collect only seeds and fruit; no leaves, sticks or trash.
Keep species separate; if you’re not certain that two (or more) trees are the same species, keep them in separate containers.
If you are not certain if you have the proper species, email a photo of the seed/fruit, leaves, bark and twigs to [email protected] for identification.
Most of the listed species are ripe and ready to collect when they fall off of the tree.
Healthy acorns (with the exception of bur oak) will fall free of the cap.
Keep the seeds/fruit cool until you can deliver it to a nursery; an air-conditioned basement is good for a short period of time.
[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”Tree seed species and collection dates” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]
Species;First date;Last date
Tulip tree;Sept. 7;Oct. 25
Persimmon;Sept. 15;Sept. 28
Shagbark hickory;Sept. 17;Nov. 10
Chinkapin oak;Sept. 20; Nov. 12
Red oak;Sept. 20;Nov. 24
White oak;Sept. 23;Nov. 10
Shellbark hickory;Sept. 27;Nov. 10
Swamp white oak;Sept. 27;Nov. 12
Black oak;Sept. 28; Nov. 11
Swamp chestnut oak;Sept. 30;Nov. 3
Black walnut;Oct. 1; Oct. 14
Bur oak;Oct. 1;Nov. 29
Pin oak;Oct. 4;Nov. 11
Shumard oak;Nov. 19;Jan. 5
[sc:pullout-text-end][sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”At a glance” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]
For information about the seed purchasing program, call the Vallonia Nursery at 812-358-3621 or email [email protected] or call the Jasper-Pulaski Nursery at 219-843-4827 or email [email protected].